Halloween is over, so now it is only natural that families begin discussing how to celebrate the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving. Before the pandemic, the drama with my family centered around hosting. We would debate who was most deserving (“We’ve got the stepkids this year.”) or what was more convenient (“We have the newborn.”)
Last year, there wasn’t much discussion. It was very clear, without a vaccine, everyone was staying put and hosting their own intimate Thanksgiving dinners.
This year, we are still up to our necks in gray waters. On the one hand, we have a vaccine. On the other hand, not everyone in my family has chosen to be vaccinated, and we have little ones who aren’t yet eligible to be fully protected. And there’s the very real evidence that, yes, even if you are vaccinated, you can still contract COVID, albeit likely avoiding hospitalization and death.
This year, I am logical. Let’s just follow the suggestions of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Call me crazy, but I like to follow the experts. My family – which includes my spouse and our children; my parents; my siblings and their spouses and children; and my spouse’s parents, sibling and their spouse and child – is not in agreement about following those guidelines. In fact, I seem to be the only person out of all of us who is interested in following the guidelines.
In this same group, there are a few unvaccinated adults, a few vaccinated adults who have health conditions that make them high-risk, and a couple of children who have been ineligible for the vaccine until recently and aren’t fully vaccinated yet.
And, every single one of us, while divided by cities and states, lives in a “high transmission” area.
According to the CDC, if multiple households (in our case, about five) gather indoors, we should all wear masks, or better yet, gather outside. That’s tricky, though, when you live in a colder region.
I suggested renting patio heaters so that we could eat outside together and just ask everyone to wear a mask while indoors. This was met with either immediate and complete opposition or dead silence – by everyone.
Some of my family members are older, retired. They are in the “nothing to lose” category. They want to see their family members and don’t care about any guidelines. Others don’t trust the CDC. Others claim to believe the science and yet challenge it with meaningless “evidence,” such as, “none of us have gotten it yet, so it will be fine” or scoffing at the CDC label for our hometowns as high transmission areas saying that “our families are different, because we are careful.” Others are just simply tired of being asked to wear masks and social distance.
I am in the “I have everything to lose, I have a long life ahead of me, I don’t want to die at 40, I want to keep my little one safe and even if I survive COVID, I’m uninterested going through what sounds like torture and I don’t want to gamble to see if I’ll have long-term effects all because you’re unwilling to eat outside or wear a mask indoors” camp.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. I never thought I’d be on the outside when trying to convey CDC guidelines to other adults. In my past life as a journalist, I routinely cited CDC data and tips for different news reports. The idea that I would be treated as neurotic because I wanted to follow CDC recommendations was once unfathomable. But now it’s my everyday life.
It’s very isolating. It puts distance between once close relationships. It breeds distrust. It makes me wonder if I really have a family at all.
I’ve always wanted to do the right thing. When cops came to my school and told me not to do drugs, I listened. When firefighters came to my school and told me toasters cause house fires when they’re on underneath a cabinet, I listened. When officials told me to stay home and social distance, I listened.
I want to do the right thing and I want to get through this thing alive and well.
One family member pointed out, “we each have a choice” on how we live during the pandemic. But why does it feel like everyone else’s choices keep me from getting to make the ones I want. Because no one is willing to compromise, I will either be alone (hopefully at least with my child) on Thanksgiving or gaslighted into going somewhere. Either way, it all feels wrong.
You love me, but just not enough to wear a mask. You love me, but just not enough to eat outside.
You love me. You love me?
Sometimes you have to be your own advocate. I just never thought I would be alone with that among the people I’m supposed to trust the most with my wellbeing.
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